Shorter days. Longer shadows. Few tourists. It’s autumn. Change is in the air. Seabright Beach shows signs of the turning season as the people leave, the wildlife take the scene. Change happens.

Bird life reflects fall migration. Terns with their black caps and orange-red beaks frequent Seabright, causing a neighborhood commotion with their constant, arrogant squawks. The sooty shearwaters have returned from the southern hemisphere in the hundreds of thousands — a black cloud of movement. At the east end of the beach, the snowy plovers are back, resting in foot depressions in the sand. This Seabright Beach population of the endangered plovers is one of only three on the central coast — a rare dune sanctuary in the middle of our town.

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Long stalks of giant kelp form dense mats within the swim buoys. In the fall, before storms wash kelp off their holdfasts, these mats are thick enough to allow egrets to stand and feed. A lone sea otter has been in the kelp for the past week, floating on its back, preening and diving the rocky reef for dinner.

Schools of anchovies caught in the shallow surf cause a feeding frenzy among pelicans and cormorants who dive for mouthfuls at the wave’s edge. The dolphins, seals and sea lions weave back and forth in the near-shore swells, chasing the plentiful fish of summer’s end.

Seabright beach changes season-to-season as a natural drift carries sand south, around the C-shaped Monterey Bay. Now at summer’s end, the beach is wide with gentle slopes. Sand deposits have filled the arch and tunnel that connect Seabright’s west end to the San Lorenzo River.

A rock near the arch measures the amount of sand that is deposited on the beach — now it is only a waist-high lump. Forceful waves of fall and winter take sand from the beach, and as sand from the rock’s base washes away it leaves a 12-foot tower asking to be scaled.

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